Room review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Room is the type of drama that likes to throw the heart of a parent through a meat shredder with tearful fears about parenthood. Every parent wants to protect their children, shield them from danger, be a teacher and has the ultimate fright of not being fit for the title. It’s a major credit to Brie Larson playing the mother terrified of the world and Jacob Tremblay perfectly portraying the curious kid with big dreams and tender thoughts. It’s rare that I find myself getting misty-eyed at the movies but the genuine frustration and compassion of this family in a tough situation really pushed those parental buttons and made Room one of the best films of 2015.
Larson plays a woman known only as Ma to the five-year-old Jack (Tremblay). The two of them have lived since Jack’s birth in a shed, hidden away from society by Ma’s raper/kidnapper, known to Jack as Old Nick. Growing up in such a small space, Jack has a different view of the world within four walls. He has problems believing things are real when reading about them or watching them on TV. He treats his sink, chairs, and tables like stuffed animals, giving them pet names and greeting them every morning. Jack sleeps inside a closet when Old Nick stops by ever so often to rape his mother and supply them with food and gifts.
It’s both fun and tragic to watch Jack explain, decipher, and lash out at his small world. He has a vivid imagination as well as a short temper common in kids. His mother tantalizes him with making a real birthday cake but there are no candles. The lack of candles leads to an outburst. He grows angry and sad but recovers much faster than Ma who goes through bouts of depression about how her life has ended up. Her scheme to escape the room inspires her to finally tell Jack the truth. But it’s a truth he’s not quite ready for, refusing to accept her stories of the outside world he doesn’t believe to be real.
What makes Room shine so well is that it focuses almost exclusively on the relationship between Jack and Ma. Sure, there’s a courtroom case, a media circus, and a questioning of how well Jack’s body will adapt to the outside world, but they never overshadow the terror and tears of a mother and son trying to connect. Once Jack and Ma escape the room, things are still rough. Grandma and grandpa are not how Ma remembers them, Ma slips into a deeper depression, and the bigness of everything is frightening for the boy. It’s a massive change that makes Jack almost nostalgic for the simpler days of the room.
The performances are first rate all around. The innocence in Jack is both amusing and sad for his comprehension of the world, stating he knew little inside the room and knows everything now that he’s out. While his contemplation on how the busy modern world functions seem profoundly deep, they’re delivered with a certain childhood sweetness that never feels forced. At the same time, Ma has that same look of despair that’s been etched onto the faces of a million parents, feeling powerless to be a provider and that forlorn descent into the bed covers, refusing to face the world and be the adult. It’s an all-too-real behavior that aimed to bleed every spec of water from my eyes, showcasing a real, tender, and heartbreaking bond of mother and child.
There was never a moment I wasn’t enraptured with the sweetness of Room that earns its warm sensations and mournful arguments amid a dark past. I felt an overwhelming amount of sympathy for its characters which feel true and complicated, struggling to do the right thing. Such simplistic statements as Jack assuring his Ma that she doesn’t have to be a great mother, just Ma, hit deeper than I thought for the emotional performances and journey. The journey from room to world is not easy for Jack and his eventual happiness comes on a rocky road worth the trip. The final scene where Jack bids a bittersweet farewell to the inanimate objects he once thought of as friends is exceptionally tough to watch. I’ve never been so moved by a child performance. This is a first-rate drama.